Does this sound familiar? You want a bright, healthy smile. You’re not particularly afraid of the dentist – or, at least, you can tolerate regular visits. But you’re just not sure how to choose the right way to pay for dental services.
Many people turn to dental insurance. But how do you find the best plan for your needs? Let’s take a look at your options:
Understanding Your Dental Insurance Needs
Dental insurance can be a confusing world to navigate. Plans vary wildly in cost and coverage. You want to find a plan which suits your needs and budget.
How much dental care do you typically need each year? Do you have ongoing dental problems, or have twice-a-year preventative check-ups been enough to keep your teeth healthy?
What are your cosmetic dental needs or wishes? Not every dental insurance plan will cover cosmetic work such as whitening, tooth straitening, dental implants and other elective procedures.
Finally, consider your budget. Are you okay with reimbursement after the dental procedure is finished or would you rather have a fixed discount up-front? How much do you want to pay for dentistry each year?
Choosing the Right Dental Plan
Alright, so you have a pretty solid idea of what features you need and what you’re comfortable with financially. Let’s take a look at what plans will work best. Dental plans can be divided into four general types:
A Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO)
A DHMO is a network of dental professionals who offer discounted service rates to plan members. As long as you see a dentist within the network, visit costs will typically be pretty low. However, you’ll still have to pay some out-of-pocket costs for many procedures, especially ones which aren’t preventative.
Finding a dentist isn’t always easy. If you live in a small town, or your DHMO has a small network, there might be a limited selection of dentists near you. Finding an in-network specialist can be even more complicated – and often requires a referral from your primary care dentist.
DHMOs tend to work best if you live near an in-network dentist you like. Because these plans provide low-cost preventative services, they’re a good choice if you typically only need basic cleanings and general maintenance.
A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
Similar to the DHMO, a PPO also has a network of dental providers. But PPOs are generally more flexible than DHMOs. The PPO network is often pretty large. Also, a PPO is more likely to offer reimbursements for out-of-network care.
Generally, a PPO plan covers less of the bill than a DHMO, which means you’ll likely pay more per visit. However, you’ll typically have a pretty large pool of providers to choose from. If you want to see a specific dentist, or you live in an area with only a few dental practices, you’ll want to consider a PPO.
Indemnity or Traditional Plan
With no network of providers, indemnity dental insurance lets you visit any dentist you like. You’ll pay for services yourself at the end of the dental visit. Then your insurance provider will send you a reimbursement check later, usually within a few days or weeks.
The specific amount will vary depending on the details of the plan, but generally, you’re looking at reimbursement between 50% and 80% of the total costs.
On the downside, you might need a predetermination before treatment begins. Your dentist will need to send a treatment plan and estimate to your insurer, who will then send back a pre-claim detailing what’s covered. This process can take some time, so you might not always be able to see your dentist exactly when you want to.
Dental Savings Plans
Maybe you don’t want a dental insurance plan at all. A dental savings plan is another option for affordable dental care, including savings on cosmetic procedures. With a dental savings plan, you pay an annual membership fee to join the plan.
As a member of a dental savings plan you’ll automatically receive a discount on a variety of dental services from over 100,000 participating dentists, including specialists, located all across the country. You pay the reduced rate to the dentist directly, so there’s no waiting for reimbursements.
Dental savings plans have a set discount per procedure. Depending on the specific services performed, you could see savings of 15% to 50%. Plus, you can use your plan as often as you wish. There are no annual caps or restrictions on pre-existing conditions.
How to Save at the Dentist
Keeping your teeth in great shape doesn’t have to bust your budget. Whether you need extensive dental procedures or just want help paying for occasional check-ups, dental insurance plans and dental savings plans are both worth your consideration. The right plan is sure to bring a smile to your face!